Analysis raises concerns on health care bill

Posted on June 8, 2009

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With a bruising battle looming over health care reform, a draft bill from Sen. Ted Kennedy’s office was leaked over the weekend. I would urge you to check out the excellent analysis of the bill by Keith Hennessey, who also has the bill as a text file and as a PDF file. (Heads up from RedState and Hot Air) Here are a few summarized bullet points from Hennessey’s report:

  • Individuals are required to buy a “qualified” health plan, or pay a monthly tax, to be determined by the Treasury and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Classes of people may be exempt from the tax if a newly formed Medical Advisory Panel deems it necessary, and individuals can save themselves if they report whatever previous health insurance information HHS might want
  • All employers of a certain size must offer insurance to employees or pay a tax determined by HHS. The percentage paid by the employer, the minimum dollar amount paid by the employer, and how big an employer has to be all has yet to be determined
  • All insurance policies would have to guarantee issue and renewal, and family plan must cover children up to age 26
  • The Medical Advisory Council will determine what private health insurance plans qualify, what  “essential health benefits” every insurance must offer, and decide what “affordable and available coverage” is for different income levels
  • Risky behaviors cannot lead to higher premiums (i.e. smoking, drinking, drug use)
  • Medicaid is expanded to cover people up making to 150% of the federal poverty level, and people making 500% of poverty will get their health insurance subsidized on a sliding scale. Federal poverty guidlines are here, which mean that a single childless person that makes up to $15,000 will qualify for Medicaid, and a single childless person making $50,000 will have their health insurance subsidized
  • Those in high cost areas (i.e. big cities) will get a bigger subsidy
  • With the “public plan option,” the government will pay health care providers the Medicare rate plus 10%. Hennessey seems to think this is designed to lure support from HMOs, and doubts that level of pay will last
  • The bill does not specify what will be used to fund its provisions
  • The bill provides a fund of money to go to any entity, or “navigator,” that will sign people up for plans, educate people about the bill and about the health plans, and as the bill explicitly states, “may include unions”

It’s a draft bill, which means that many things will change, but as written the Kennedy-Dodd bill will create a massive new entitlement program with numerous tendrils of government extending to regulate and control multiple aspects of the health care industry. HHS is given vast new powers over broad aspects of health care policy. Others have raised patient privacy concerns that run afoul of HIPAA, but the sheer size of the program seems unsustainable at a time when our government is already running record deficits.

Replacing private HMO bureaucrats with public ones won’t solve our health care problems; indeed, suffocating federal involvement will drive down the quality of care just so a new government bureaucracy can be created to make some folks feel better. Federal entitlements, especially massive ones such as this, are difficult to reform once implemented and impossible to scale back if unsustainable – one need only look at the Social Security and Medicare debacles as proof.  I have deep concerns about the present state of this bill, and I fear this nation is headed down a road that will see it give up its medical choices to the government, and in any case is one we can’t afford.

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Posted in: News, Politics